Monday, March 06, 2006

Free of Charge Part 2

Today's extract is again from the Interlude: Daniel's Death, in Free of Charge - giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace, by Miroslav Volf.

The pain of the terrible loss still lingers on, but bitterness and resentment against those who were responsible are gone. It was healed at the foot of the cross as my mother gazed on the Son who was killed and reflected about the God who forgave. Aunt Milica was forgiven, and there was no more talk of her guilt, not even talk of her having been guilty. As far as I was concerned, she was innocent.

But my parents did speak often of forgiveness in relation to Daniel's death. In fact, the first lesson in forgiveness I remember lay in the story of how they forgave the soldier who was the main culprit. 'The Word of God tells us to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us,' said my parents, 'and so we decided to forgive.' The soldier felt terrible, so terrible in fact that he had to be admitted to the hospital. My father, with a wound in his heart that would never quite heal, went to visit him, to comfort the one whose carelessness had caused him so much grief, and tell him that my mother and he forgave him.

In the courtroom too, my father insisted that he and my mother, who was too brokenhearted to take part in the hearing, had forgiven. They wouldn't press charges, he said. Why should one more mother be plunged into grief, this time because the life of her son, a good boy but careless in a crucial moment, was ruined by the hands of justice. After the soldier was discharged from the army and went home unpunished, my father visited him even though it took him two days to make the trip. He was concerned for the soldier and wanted to talk to him once more of God's love, which is greater than our accusing hearts, and of my parents' forgiveness.

The reason why my parents forgave was simple. God forgave them, and so they forgave the soldier. But the forgiveness itself was difficult, and for my mother, excruciatingly painful. I will revisit the pain of my mother's forgiveness [later]. My father never talked about how it felt forgiving a person who killed his boy; he never talked much about how anything felt, though he was a deeply sensitive man. But that forgiveness must have cost him a great deal too, possibly no less than it cost my mother.
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